How did you first start playing music?
I’ve been singing and performing since I was a kid. My mom loves to tell a story where I hijacked a friend’s birthday party and told them all to stop playing, gather around me, and I would sing for them (rude). It was just in me – I don’t really remember it beginning at all. Formally, I started taking voice lessons when I was 7.
What have you been working on recently (other than Dried Flowers)?
I just got a new apartment, so I’ve been slowly making it try to look like me and keep all my plants alive.
What influenced the sound and songwriting for your new record?
I’m influenced by a lot of different music – I grew up singing classical music, but also was gigging in a classic rock band, so that gives you a bit of a clue as to where I come from. Right now, the people that I seem to gravitate the most towards are those that do the same as me – that blend genres together to make something that they feel sounds like them. I really love messing around in alternate tunings (shocker: I love Joni Mitchell) but I also love the whole four chords and the truth style of songwriting, so I kind of jam them together to see what happens. I usually love to focus on the atmosphere surrounding the music, so there’s a lot of spacey guitars, keys, and pedal steel happening. My heroes seem to always come back to Joni Mitchell and Kathleen Edwards, but while recording, I also listened to loads of Kacey Musgraves and Maggie Rogers.
Where and when did you record “Dried Flowers” – did the location influence the sound?
I recorded Dried Flowers with John Dinsmore at Lincoln County Social Club in Toronto. The vibe in a space always factors in a lot for me when I’m looking for studios, and John has a great setup with a classic country western vibe. John also works with a lot of the musicians I look up to (Kathleen Edwards, Donovan Woods), so I knew we would be a good fit and he would understand where I was coming from. I definitely think working together influenced the sound of the album.
What did you find most challenging and rewarding during the songwriting and recording process?
I’ve never edited songs as heavily as I did for Dried Flowers. Most of this record was written during a residency at the Banff Centre, where I got to work with lots of heavy hitting Nashville writers as well as many of my peers from across Canada. It was a really vulnerable and educational experience to learn how to be open with others through the writing process – I had never really let others see a work in progress, but at the Banff Centre, that’s all I did. This challenge became a reward (albeit, a trying and painful one at times) as I think I learned SO MUCH about songwriting during my time there.
Who did you work with on the album?
John Dinsmore produced, engineered, and mixed the album. The musicians on the album started off with my long time bandmates, Bruce Scavuzzo (bass) and Justin Han (drums). After that, we brought others in to fill out the band – Emily Rockarts (keys) and Alyson McNamara (backing vocals) were fellow songwriters from the Banff Centre and I knew I had to have them on board. The rest of the band were new to me, but I had been following their work for years: Aaron Goldstein (pedal steel), Gord Tough (electric guitars), Rosalyn Dennett (fiddle), and Drew Jurecka (strings and string arrangements). Two of the tracks were done at the Banff Centre, so those were produced by Howard Bilerman (Arcade Fire, Basia Bulat), and featured folks such as Old Man Luedecke, Fats Kaplin, Mike O’Brien, Rebecca Emms (TOVI), and more! This album has the longest credits list I’ve seen, I think.
How do you see this record fitting into the Canadian folk rock / Americana canon?
The thing I love best about this genre of music is that it’s just stories followed by more stories – I’m now a part of that ongoing tradition of storytelling. I think this album combines a lot of old and new sounds – some tradition, some non-traditional – I like to be able to contribute in a way that can fit in a lot of different places.
Who or what influences your music?
Everything! The tracks on this record all ultimately relate back to me and kind of carry on this theme of growth or self-relization, but there’s tales about relationships, living in Canada, my family, political matters – you name it and I’ve probably been influenced by it somehow. I think the tracks I wrote at the Banff Centre were all very much inspired by being there – I wrote a proper love song there (which I don’t often do) and I’m pretty convinced that only happened because of the beauty surrounding me.
Who are you listening to at the moment?
I’ve been beyond obsessed with Maggie Rogers over the past year – I think it’s because of her history in folk and bringing that style of songwriting into a different genre of music. I adore so many of the artists in my scene that have put out new music recently – folks like Danielle Knibbe and Claire Coupland. Like every Canadian songwriter, I’m always listening to Joni Mitchell, and I’ve spent a lot of time listening to Andy Shauf recently too.
What do you like to do away from music?
Well, music seems to take up the vast majority of my time, so when I’m not doing that, I love to do virtually nothing – with others, or just on my own. I love spending time in Hamilton and trying new places throughout the city, as there’s so many new spots opening up all the time. I also see a lot of live music – I go to a lot of shows. It’s rare that I’m not doing something musical.
What fuels your creative process?
For the most part, I tend to go through feast or famine with my songwriting. The writing I do is often very project based, so I’ll write an EP or a record, figure it out, record it, tour it, and then start again. You have to want it – to work in this industry. It is both a huge blessing and also such a strange thing to do for a living – it’s such an obscene amount of work and you have to get so used to rejection, so it has to be deep in you to keep going. The fuel behind it is a certain something that I can’t really explain, which sounds so cliche, but it’s so true. Oftentimes, when I’m stressed out or tired, I think “what would it be like if you had a Monday-Friday 9-5 job and weren’t working on music” and then I always come back to wondering what my life would even be if I did that? I can’t think of a time I wasn’t making music in some capacity, so I suppose it’s second nature to keep moving forward.
What do you have planned for 2019?
This record is finally going to come out, and I’m going to play a BUNCH of shows. More on that later…
Favourite food and place to hangout?
Burritos and barbecue are my favourite foods. I love to hang out with my friends or family, in someone’s house, so that we can chill out and have great conversation (and eat burritos, ha). I spend so much time in noisy places, that the quiet ones are my favourite. Probably my favourite spot to really do that in public is Bampot House of Tea in Toronto, because it feels like you’re in someone’s home.